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The puzzle is, why this long neglect of the advances in biological information in developing new and better varieties? There were competent agricultural scientists in India who were specializing in rice and wheat. It is my contention that they saw the demand of farmers as a demand for varieties that would perform best, given the depleted soils, the weather uncertainties, the limited control of water, and the poor farm equipment that characterize so much of India. Their assessment was undoubtedly correct. It was also clear to them that the new high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice are strongly dependent upon fertilizer, but they were serving a country with virtually no commercial fertilizer.
To argue ex post that Indian agricultural scientists should have anticipated the recent remarkable increases in the supply of fertilizer available to farmers in India is pointless. It should also be noted that until recently neither the government nor farmers were aware of the modern possibilities of research; therefore, they did not bring their influence to bear in favor of such possibilities. Instead they at least tacitly agreed, particularly with the most talented scientists, that the specialists would engage in the type of scientific and academic pursuits that was their wont. Now that they are aware of new possibilities, government and farmers are using their influence to bring about a change. Now, too, scientists are responding.* They are now actively at work improving the quality of the new wheat and rice varieties as food, determining the proper application of fertilizer that the new high-yielding varieties require, and searching for effective ways to control diseases and pests, for better seeding techniques, and for improvements in land management that the new varieties and the fertilizers call for (43).
Fertilizers. Another development which also has its origin outside of agriculture and which is having a strong positive effect on agricultural production is the large reduction in the price of fertilizer materials. The decline in the price of fertilizer is primarily a consequence of lower cost made possible by gains in productivity that have been achieved by the fertilizer-producing industries.t These gains have come, in large part, from advances in industrial technical knowledge. Since the end of the 1930's there have been two series of price declines. The first occurred before 1964-65 and the other since then. The following data show that in the United States fertilizer prices declined by one half relative to farm products prices during the decade from 1939-40 to 1950. (If one were to use the consumer price index, the relative decline would be very much the same.)
*1 have drawn a part of this paragraph from my previous work (48) and from correspondence with Sterling Wortman of the Rockefeller Foundation.
'For an economic analysis of the gains in productivity in producing fertilizer, see